Recent Publications

 The Long-Term Health Effects of Childhood Exposures to Social and Economic Policies: A Scoping Review

By Emily C. Dore and Jordan Wurapa

While numerous studies have found a relationship between social and economic policies and short-term health outcomes, fewer studies have explored the long-term health effects of these policies. Given the important association between childhood circumstances and health in adulthood, long-term population health consequences should be considered when designing social and economic policies. This review summarizes the existing literature on the long-term effects of childhood exposure to social and economic policies on adult health, summarizes the findings, the methods employed, and indicates areas for future research. The review process followed the JBI scoping review protocol and PRISMA-ScR reporting guidelines. The search was conducted in three electronic databases (Web of Science, Pub Med, and SCOPUS), and focused on peer-reviewed manuscripts that studied the effects of policy exposures during childhood on health in adulthood. A total of 3471 articles were collected from the databases and 18 were identified as meeting the eligibility criteria. The most commonly studied policies were safety-net policies (N = 6), followed by education policies (N = 5), civil rights policies (N = 3), government investments (N = 3), and child labor laws (N = 1). The health outcomes varied and included chronic conditions, mental health, mortality, and self-rated health. The studies also overwhelmingly employed causal inference techniques (N = 13), including difference-in-differences study designs and instrumental variable analysis. Most studies found long-term positive effects of policies that provided extra resources to historically under-resourced populations, or policies that aimed to increase equality of opportunity. However, there were some studies with null or mixed findings, especially when examining the long-term health effects of education reform. More literature is needed on this important topic, and now is the time to capitalize on longer follow-up periods in currently available data. 

Structural Sexism and Preventive Health Care Use in the United States

By Emily C. Dore, Surbhi Shrivastava, and Patricia Homan

Preventive health care use can reduce the risk of disease, disability, and death. Thus, it is critical to understand factors that shape preventive care use. A growing body of research identifies structural sexism as a driver of population health, but it remains unknown if structural sexism is linked to preventive care use and, if so, whether the relationship differs for women and men. Gender performance and gendered power and resource allocation perspectives lead to competing hypotheses regarding these questions. This study explores the relationship between structural sexism and preventive care in gender-stratified, multilevel models that combine data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System with state-level data (N = 425,454). We find that in states with more structural sexism, both men and women were less likely to seek preventive care. These findings support the gender performance hypothesis for men and the gendered power and resource allocation hypothesis for men and women.

Easing Cash Assistance Rules During COVID-19 was Associated with Reduced Days of Poor Physical and Mental Health

By Emily C. Dore, Melvin D. Livingston, III, and Paul R. Shafer

Unemployment rates soared at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, increasing financial stress that can affect physical and mental health. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is the primary cash assistance program for low-income families in the US, with benefits conditional on work activities and subject to suspension. However, many states loosened requirements during the pandemic. Using TANF policy data and data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from the period January 2017–December 2020 with a triple-difference design, we found a general protective effect of supportive changes to TANF on poor physical and mental health days and binge drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic for likely TANF participants. For example, providing emergency cash benefits to those not already participating in TANF, waiving work requirements, waiving or pausing sanctions, and automatically recertifying benefits were associated with reductions in the number of mentally unhealthy days. This study provides support for increasing generosity and easing administrative burdens in safety-net programs to buffer against negative impacts of public health and economic crises.

State-Level Data on TANF Policy Changes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Emily C. Dore, Paul R. Shafer, and Melvin D. Livingston, III

Objective COVID-19 mitigation measures prompted many states to revise the administration of their welfare programs. States adopted policies that varied across the U.S. to respond to the difficulties in fulfilling program requirements, as well as increased financial need. This dataset captures the changes made to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, from March 2020 through December 2020. The authors created this dataset as part of a larger study that examined the health effects of TANF policy changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Data description TANF is the main cash assistance program for low-income families in the U.S., but benefits are often conditional on work requirements and can be revoked if an individual is deemed noncompliant. Structural factors during the COVID-19 pandemic made meeting these criteria more difficult, so some states relaxed their rules and increased their benefits. This dataset captures 24 types of policies that state TANF programs enacted, which of the states enacted each of them, when the policies went into effect, and when applicable, when the policies ended.